Another HOM Sunday

All that wall to wall sun meant the waders were super-crisp at Hesketh Out Marsh this morning.
A good close Curlew Sand on HOM East with 8+ Greenshank at the back, and the de rigeur Great White Egret.
On HOM West a snoozing Spot Redshank with the Redshank, quartering Marsh Harrier and the four Spoonbills were still dozing and occasionally working the shallows with their daft bills.

159 Golden Plover on the bunds were worth a good grilling and 11 Avocet were still on the lagoons.
Tree Sparrow, Curlews, Lapwings, Blackwits, Raven and Skylarks too.
A pleasant morning – and interesting to talk geese, shearwaters and ticks (sadly not the sexy pencil kind you put on your list) with David Mallett.

Pink Feet everywhere from Ainsdale to Banks making the place look untidy.

Stubble trouble.

The Skylarks were hard to connect with in the stubble this afternoon on Plex – about 70 of ’em were in the fields east of Gettern Farm, but they were keeping a very low profile, rising in small, chirrupping groups then disappearing again.
The Mipits (30+) and a single female Wheatear there were doing much the same, but I couldn’t work out what the problem was until I rounded the corner past Plex Brow and saw a fine male Peregrine sitting in the middle of the stubble, surrounded by piles of lime ready for field dressing.

Even he seemed preoccupied though and only flew a short distance when flushed by a 4×4 – it seemed odd until I noticed a young female Peregrine on a kill on the opposite side of the track.
What appeared to be the feathers of a Woodpigeon blew away on a north westerly strong enough to topple Kestrels off the roadside wires (bye bye dignity) as she glared at me in between ripping pieces of flesh off her catch.

A big girl, I must have got to her shortly after the kill, as I arrived before the Carrion Crows.
First one, then another two, which quickly dispossessed her of dinner, leaving the falcon to circle around the field screaming with rage while they tucked in.
I particularly liked the first Carrion Crow to arrive, which behaved so circumspectly until the rest of the corvid posse rocked up – butter wouldn’t melt.
I caught a bit of the behaviour on video (yes it was windy, yes I forgot to turn the car engine off, yes I was wibbly wobbly filming into the sun, but y’know…. am I bothered?) which you can watch on YouTube here.
Plenty of pockets of Pink Feet flapping over the Lancs skies this afternoon – they had a rough night last night I think, presumably because of the high winds, with many calling over Dempsey Towers throughout the wee small hours… disorientated or new arrivals?
Back on Plex a Marsh Harrier received short shrift from the corvids as it moved west, while two or three Jays in Haskayne Cutting may just have been migrants.

Rise and fall

From the other side, the milk chocolate brown Humber is an altogether different proposition.
Killingholme Haven lagoons were packed with waders this morning, but with four cars parked by the small hide I figured the place might be a bit crowded, so headed south along the bank instead.
At least 95 Avocets were sifting through the shallows over the tide, with large numbers of Black-Tailed Godwit, Knot, Redshank and Dunlin ‘scopable from range.
A Little Egret dropped in too, reinforcing the changes at this site over the years.
This would have been heavy score when I used to watch here regularly 20 years ago.
The scrub, sagging with sloes, elder and hawthorn berries, was contrastingly quiet compared to the packed lagoon.
A feeding group of Long-Tailed Tits dragged along a few Great Tits (plenty of them at Spurn yesterday) and one scruffy acro which once it showed well was clearly a Reed Warbler, dirty with the industrial grime that the expansion of the quay and yards here has brought.
Had me going for a minute or two.
A few groups of Mipits moved through, with Chaffinches and a handful of Swallows.
Huge Long-Eared Owl and Turtle Dove sized holes in the memory here though – it’s true Avocets (and car storage yards) flourish, but other sp are nosediving into oblivion.
All aboard the 21st century…
Rises and falls.

What it is

The new morning sun rose over the Warren and set the Redstart’s undercrackers ablaze.
Freshly arrived overnight it was too tired to bother with me as it foraged inches away – a typical autumn encounter at Spurn.
Bright sun and a strengthening north easterly wind meant it was pleasant but fairly hard going over here today – some good birds went through, but that’s not the same as connecting with them!
A few Siskins called overhead and hordes of Migrants Hawkers floated over sheltered corners at Kilnsea – this one was sunning itself on the old church wall.

A quick seawatch with Andy Bunting lobbed plenty of Gannets, a Bonxie and five Red Throated Divers, Common Scoter and Guillemots onto the day list as Kittiwakes flapped north, but I mislaid both Cory’s Shears that went past – good birds for Spurn, and I was sorry to miss ’em.
At the Canal Scrape a Jack Snipe was dozing at the back next to a Common Snipe (look at the dark lump to the right in the pic below) in the cleared area, and quite wonderfully it began bobbing even though it was asleep – dreaming of worms perhaps?

On the way back over the river to Immingham and the in-laws I stopped off at Sammy’s Point, where a Yellow-Browed Warbler, low and superfast was feeding around the hawthorns and Russian Vine on the bank.
A few lovely views of Mr Stripey but the beast was so hyperactive my brain was still trying to process the gorgeous pattern of eye-stripes and wing-bars long after the bird itself had moved back into cover.

From a nest in Siberia to a hawthorn bush beside the Humber – that’s entertainment and that’s autumn.


Luck saw me working for about two hours just after dawn at Ainsdale beach entrance today, with the sun still low and lacking colour, and before the breeze picked up at 7.45am.
It was a perfect opportunity to watch a bit of local vis-mig.
Finches were passing, but strangely all north – five Chaffinches, 70+ Goldfinch, two Greenfinch and 24 Linnets bounded overhead calling between 7am and 8.30am – a Greater ‘Pecker swooped south while seven Skylark chirrupped over the sands.
Alba wags and Mipits were on the move too, as they have been for the last few days. One, possibly two Grey Wags scratched the blue sky with their calls.
Several groups of Pink Feet were reorientating from roosts to feeding grounds, which made a squadron of Canadas sound even more intrusive than usual.
Three Ravens low north were followed by a singleton north 20 minutes later – nothing out of the ordinary, yet pleasant to witness.
Out on the beach five Wheatears were feeding with a few alba wags and Mipits.
One female was tail-pumping away inbetween lunges after midges, like a petulant diner wanting more breakfast.
You can watch a bit of the tail-pumping footage on YouTube here.

As the big tide bubbled in, Grey Plovers were starting to look past their summer best, although the large wader gatherings seemed to be nearer Southport beach, with 8,000 Knot reported up there by today’s cannon-netting crew who were left without birds to fire at over the tide at Ainsdale.
Thanks for keeping your news coming during this odd autumn – I’m not getting into the field as much as I’d like, so it’s great to hear what others are seeing.

Scaly-backed Saturday smiles

A fine warm autumn Saturday morning – ideal to pop down the M57 to Hale Lighthouse for a look at the lingering juve Sabine’s Gull.
The bird was hawking and dancing over the stubble and occasionally dropping down to contemplate life in the bright sun.
Such lovely birds, juves or adults, especially when they’re condescending enough to spend a bit of time on dry land rather than plugging by in the teeth of a storm a good distance offshore.

A few hundred gulls were raiding the earth exposed by a farmer’s quartering tractor, mainly BHGS, although the flock was peppered with one or two Med Gulls and Herrings and the Sab’s often dropped into the throng to feed alongside them, but not with them.
Sometimes it landed fairly close and I even fumbled a few seconds of wind buffeted, shaky video before it took off again.
You can see the clip on YouTube here, which is pretty pants, but let’s face it, it’s all about the wing pattern baby.

Quality Raven heading down the Mersey to boot, with a few Skylarks, Buzzard, and Peregrine plus Chaffinches and Mipits moving through.
A pleasing hour or so.


The humid, cloudy conditions saw a mass emergence of midges along the tideline just to the north of the beach car park at Ainsdale this morning, sparking a passerine feeding frenzy.
80+ alba wags, 50+ Mipits, 8 Wheatear and a Skylark were all chasing about, darting, snapping and twisting through the soup of insects.
They concentrated on a small area of about 50 metres width directly west of the embryo dunes where the midges were at their densest – marvellous.

Occasionally pulses of 15-20 Swallows, with smaller numbers of House Martins tore through, diverting from southerly journeys to streak into the midges, barely slowing as they snatched up easy breakfasts.
Later in the day the swarm dispersed and so did the passerines, but good numbers of birds continued to feed along the tideline, they were just more spread out.

Not yet

The Pink Feet dropped down onto Crossens Outer with all the crackling electricity of migration, but I’m not quite ready to embrace my inner winter just yet, so I kept driving, heading on up the road to HOM.
Small skeins were dropping down at cloud base level there too – they were arriving in numbers today, but I was after waders so gave HOM east a good ‘scoping.
The site was still looking marvellous, with at least 14 Greenshanks, mainly in two distant roosting groups, Ringed Plovers, Redshanks, Blackwits and Curlews.
A Curlew Sandpiper with a smear of chestnut on its undercrackers, was distant too but I couldn’t resist a long range Black-headed Gull/Greenshank/Curlew Sand triptych, even after one of the local Peregrines had unhelpfully flushed the waders far, far away.

A few Yellow Wags bounded west down the seawall, and the Great White Egret was still Superglued to the back pool…

On the way back I paused to look at the dozing Pinks on Crossens Outer and shivered.
Not yet.


A pleasant enough session from the Tobacco Dump at Formby this afternoon, although the main business of the seawatch occurred in the first hour before the weather began to improve, with my first Leach’s of the autumn and a close-in young Arctic Skua.
I gave it three hours and with so many Common Scoter strewn across the bay and frequently taking flight, there was always activity, even if variety and numbers away from the Black Puddings were somewhat lacking.

Pretty much the first bird I saw when I sat down at 11.30 was a young Arctic Skua resting on the swell just out past the scruffy breakers, dark with a tiny tiny peanut head.
It looked a bit bulkier when it first took flight, but hung around long enough to nail as a dishevelled and tired Arctic before it drifted off north.
The Leach’s Petrel went south just behind the surf just before midday, lovely ‘scope views as it plodded by – a good start and I was surprised not to see others.

Tobacco Dump, 5.9.20, 1130-1430:
Swly 4, easing, sunshine and cloud.

Arctic Skua 1
Razorbill 1
Common Scoter 1,500+
Sandwich Tern 16
Leach’s Petrel 1
Fulmar 3-7
Red Throated Diver 2
Gannet 9
Kittiwake 7 inc several juvs
Shelduck 18
Harbour Porpoise 1
Dunlin, Oycs, Cormorant, LBBs, Herring Gull, Knot etc.

At least three knackered Fulmars were resting on the waves, but I saw Fulmar seven times in the sesh – this would be a very good count for Formby these days, although I suspect all sightings involved the same three tired birds, gliding about the swell for short periods before pitching down again.

Low on Gannets and Manxies weirdly absent, but it may be worth another crack tomorrow.

Bad day to be an ant…

Bob Ross had overdone it with the flaming yellow and cobalt again as a cracking sunrise broke over Hull yesterday morning.
Perhaps not what you want to see with autumn passage in mind towards the end of an early a.m. dart east – cloud and drizzle is always better than blue skies and sun, but you can’t win ’em all.

I pulled up by the Canal Scrape at Spurn by 0715, where a Wood Sandpiper fed in the golden dawn, and the showiest Wryneck in Wryneck Town was still slurping ants at the side of the road, completely oblivious to human beings just a metre away.
The air rattled with camera shutters as most of the western world’s SIM cards filled with images and video – Wrynecks are often very approachable, but this one was off the scale confiding…

You can see some of my video clips on YouTube here, here and here.
Always a joy to visit Spurn, Yellow Wags called and there was a smattering of passing Siskins, and a few Pied Flys and Whinchats.
One or two Redstarts, a Greater ‘Pecker and Little Ringed Plover all got the migration juices flowing.

I met up with Neill Hunt and we walked down towards the Warren, where a typically skulky/lazy Barred Warbler played hide and seek before perching up amongst the Sea Buckthorn and Elder only to get the cold shoulder from local Dunnocks.
In the hard morning sun it shone white and looked heavy and swoopy in flight.

The Humber bustled with waders – Golden Plover, Grey Plover, Dunlin, Curlew Sands, Greenshank, Knot etc and a Marsh Harrier moved south down the peninsula, with a few Common Buzzards following an hour or so later.
A look at Kilnsea Wetlands revealed a snoozing Spoonbill and Greenshank, although the tide had fallen by the time we got up there so it was a fairly quiet time of the day.

Plenty of other birders lured east with Andy Bunting, Dave Bickerton and Jack Taylor, plus all the Spurn regulars putting shifts in. Heavy rain and strong south westerlies last night promised much but as the drizzle subsided and we emerged from Sandy Beaches today the place was a bit quiet.
The Wryneck was still in point blank situ hoovering up ants as we strolled by with Neill’s brother Barrie, yet there didn’t seem to be any new arrivals apart from himself.

A seawatch this morning revealed clumps of Common Scoter and Teal plus a few Pintail moving south, with just a handful of Gannets, an Arctic Skua and a single Red throated Diver.
A spritely Pied Flycatcher was on Beacon Lane and as it warmed up a few Swifts drifted north, and more Whinchats materialised, but I had to head home at lunchtime (always a bad feeling leaving Spurn early in the day) already looking forward to my next trip east.

Autumn is getting going.
Thanks to Neill and Barrie for their company as ever – and to the Crown and Anchor for the socially distanced but excellent hospitality!